Updated on 04/09/2014 10:04AM

Santa Anita Derby: California Chrome dominates

Benoit & Associates
California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza win the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby by 5 1/4 lengths Saturday.

ARCADIA, Calif. – It has been 59 years since Art Sherman first went to the Kentucky Derby as an 18-year-old exercise rider for 1955 Derby winner Swaps. After that, he was a jockey, then a trainer, but never has he returned to the Derby. But now he has a good reason to go back, and no one is riding higher.

The Sherman-trained California Chrome, already considered the ante-post favorite for the May 3 Derby, emphatically solidified that position Saturday with a powerhouse performance in the Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby, which he won by 5 1/4 lengths after a bit of early difficulty. So impressive was the win, his fourth straight, that Sherman, 77, joked, “Maybe I should take my jock’s license out.”

Victor Espinoza had the mount Saturday, but the way California Chrome ($3.40) ran, Shaquille O’Neal could have ridden him. Facing two other highly regarded stakes-winning 3-year-olds, Hoppertunity and Candy Boy, California Chrome blew them off the racetrack.

“It’s kind of spooky,” Sherman said. “I’m not used to that. I’ve seen my horses win but not do what he’s doing.”

Hoppertunity rallied for second, 3 1/2 lengths in front of third-place Candy Boy. Dublin Up was fourth and was followed by Big Tire, Rprettyboyfloyd, Friendswith K Mill, and Schoolofhardrocks in the field of eight.

California Chrome completed 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track in 1:47.52 and set off a raucous celebration in the winner’s circle for the growing entourage of his owners and breeders, Steve Coburn and Perry Martin.

California Chrome earned a first prize of $600,000 and 100 qualifying points under the system used by Churchill Downs to determine the Derby field should more 20 horses enter. Hoppertunity earned 40 points. Both of those horses, though, already had enough points to make the field based on prior wins.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Candy Boy, however, is in jeopardy of not making the field. He earned 20 points for third and now has 30 overall, which doesn’t yet guarantee him a spot in the field.

California Chrome broke a half-step slowly but was sensible in those first few strides, as Dublin Up crossed over from the outside stall and took the lead through an opening quarter in 22.89 seconds. California Chrome was lapped on him comfortably from second, Candy Boy tracked while three paths wide, and Hoppertunity slid into a ground-saving trip behind those runners.

“I got a little spooked leaving the gate,” Sherman said. But he liked where California Chrome ended up. “I think he’s a better horse stalking,” he said. “I prefer this type of trip.”

Dublin Up led narrowly after a half in 47.02 seconds and six furlongs in 1:10.81, but then California Chrome accelerated sharply near the quarter pole and quickly shot clear of his pursuers.

Hoppertunity moved into a striking position, but California Chrome was not yielding. Hoppertunity continued resolutely for second in a good prep. Candy Boy was only a half-length behind California Chrome after six furlongs but was 8 3/4 back at the finish.

California Chrome has won six times in 10 starts, and his last four wins have been by a combined 24 1/4 lengths, an average of just more than six lengths. He just seems to be getting better.

“My expectations were high, but this exceeded it,” said Alan Sherman, his father’s top assistant.

“He has more left,” said Espinoza, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2002 on War Emblem.

Now, Sherman gets to make a trip to the Derby as a trainer in the twilight of his career, not as a fresh-faced exercise rider. Sherman speaks in awe of Swaps, as well as his trainer, Mesh Tenney, and Rex Ellsworth, his owner and breeder. And while Sherman would never dare to put California Chrome in the company of Swaps, he’s been impressed by his progress.

“Swaps set six world records,” Sherman said. “And the people who had him, they taught me a lot. I’m just honored to have a horse like this.”


Kristin Bever Encallado More than 1 year ago
I love this guy!
Bill Ratliff More than 1 year ago
We know that CC can run and if something bad happens and he was not to get in the top 4 this will be an unreal tri and super. We have seen it many times when you have this many horses anything can happen. That's the Kentucky Derby, so I am going to throw CC out of one of my tri's and one of my super's ? Then I am going to key him on another tri and my super. If he don't show up it will be a killer pay off and we have seen that many times on the first Sat. in May. Also Key CC with all in the Ex. and all with cc. and hope a major long shot comes running. Run CC second , third and forth in some 10 cent supers and throw him out on a few.. This could be one of the best payoffs or one of the worst in Derby History. It should be a lot of fun???????????
The Truth More than 1 year ago
Here's the bet for the Kentucky Derby...$100 dollar exacta Calif Chrome with/ALL, then a $100 exacta putting ALL with/Calif. Chrome... California Chrome is going to finish 1st or 2nd.......the smallest Kentucky derby exacta since 2000 was a $65 payout for a $2 bet....This makes a $380 bet into a min. $3,250 payday. The Truth!
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
Denver Broncos More than 1 year ago
Let's hope Borel isn't riding him or else that will water down the odds even more!
John More than 1 year ago
$100 exacta wheels cost $3,800 not $380
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Pick 4 horse with three other horses definintley,key in exacta maybe. I will not place a win bet in a 20 horse field at 2-1. Does anybody agree. I got 5-1 on Orb last year. Need to see who the second choice is Constitution or Tapiture if he wins Ark Derby, both Pulpit Tapit colts. A
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Hay Rahman I was gonna post a similar question, but after this wknd. I agree, in a 20 horse field, can't take 2-1.. OK, still early, WR and WS over same with Sammy and CC..I like Tapiture best out of all the Tapits, so far.....Good Luck
Chuck Seddio More than 1 year ago
still not giving up on candy boy,the derby is a different race,much different than anything in santa anita . dont count out candy boy as of yet,hopefully he gets in. they (cc) always look invincible but then comes the first sat in may at a mile and a quarter,and nothing goes as planned
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
I love this horse. I also love Vicars in Trouble. He has progressed wonderfully. Ooh. Is that the Derby 1-2? Have to play it now, regardless.
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
Vicar would give America its first female Derby winner. Food for thought.
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
Darn. I also forgot about Constitution. Hate him or love him, he is a contender. Now here is the problem with two horses that NEED to be up on the pace. They battle, hard. Chrome just showed he can sit off the pace but did you see how quick the jock made sure he got him to the front in the SAD? He needs to be up there. Now put him in a compromising post, he expends energy to get to where he needs to be. So as the race goes on, he and Constitution start bumping heads and guess what? They tire. Now who? Vicars in Trouble? I like California Chrome but I don't like to GAMBLE on horses that need the lead. California and Constitution can really compromise one another.
BoughPena More than 1 year ago
Well, we are all allowed to dream. VIT's running style in this Kentucky Derby may be wrong. It seems that He only knows how to win in the lead, and I'm sorry to burst your bubble, there are a few horses much faster than VIT in here. Yet anything is possible. But personally, do not see him winning it wire to wire like He did twice at Fairgrounds.
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sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
You wouldn't take 15-1?
Nick More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Russell, slow down. One race at a time. Not this year. It's nice to be an amatuer again. Just dropped 30 years and it feels good. Best prospect I saw was Secretariat. Saw him run as a two year old at Garden State Park and it's not even close.
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Stephen Terakami More than 1 year ago
Of all the horses I've ever seen run going back many years, Dr Fager was the most impressive. I would pick the Doctor over any other horse in an equal weight match race. And you can pick the distance of the race between 6 furlongs and 10 furlongs.
Boyd Cord More than 1 year ago
A lot of horses who came in second or third their last time out wins the kentucky derby.
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
Why is that? Because they were rounding into tip top form. The Derby was their next step in the form cycle. Preakness comes if they didn't peak in Louisville. Combo of distance, wear and tear and regressing is why Triple Crown is so infrequent.
Nick More than 1 year ago
i agree. You dont have to win to get there..just run good and bring your A game....some recent derby winners have never won another race
Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
Not Animal Kingdom, I'll Have Another or Orb, your last 3 Kentucky Derby winners. Theyall won their prep race....
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
I'm trying not to get too blown away by this horse. Come derby day, I don't want to be feel less than if he loses and then falters in the Preakness because the rest have caught up! But boy oh boy did he look like a man among boys rounding the 3rd corner at Santa Anita!
edb More than 1 year ago
He passed a 45-1 shot like he was a 45-1 shot. Hopp was only horse with any kind of close and Candy Boy was fake speed. I would be shocked if Candy Boy would finish in top ten in the derby. Remember three horses in the race ran in a maiden race a month ago. So man against boys is about right. I really want Chrome to bring his race on derby day. He does have the potential to get to the next level. Just so much speed in the race with Wildcat Red and Samaraat to soften him up the last 1/4 mile. With a lack of closers, could be a bunch of drunken sailors coming home in the stretch.
Nick More than 1 year ago
the only true closer is Intense Holiday....he ran up c;ose last out to just tighten him up for the derby...he will be flying late
Boyd Cord More than 1 year ago
it's tough for the little outfits when they show up at the derby. So far I only like Hopportunity, I think he's getting better. I love how he fought at Oaklawn for the win. Still have more races to watch though.